If at first you don’t succeed. Or even on the second attempt. It had seemed like one of those nights for Newcastle striker Joelinton, who saw a first-half goal ruled out for handball and then brought forward his candidate for the season’s miss at the start of the second period.
Quicksilver Miguel Almirón had crossed and, after a double deflection, the ball sat for the pressed Joelinton inside the penalty area, the goal gaping. When he lifted high, he could have been forgiven for wanting to be very far away – say, back in Newcastle.
Joelinton refused to hide. He kept pushing. And when substitute Alexander Isak pulled away from Duje Calata-Car, Joelinton made another run. This time he really couldn’t miss from close range and Newcastle controlled their Carabao Cup semi-final first leg – a step closer to a first cup final since 1999.
Southampton, the last club in the Premier League, tried to fight back. They thought they had equalized when substitute Adam Armstrong went home only to have VAR notice he had used a hand to do so. Caleta-Car would be delayed with a second yellow card for a foul on Newcastle substitute Allan Saint-Maximin and the evening would be marked by frustration for his side.
The number to go for Newcastle fans was 644 – the road miles to complete the round trip, a mission of around 11 hours. That was never going to stop them from attending a first semi-final since 2005.
The traveling support proclaimed at kick-off that they were going to Wembley – they were clearly in the mood to make the most of the occasion – and their side were the brightest in the first half.
The hosts were initially loose with their passing and, when Nathan Jones was caught up in heated conversation with Moussa Djenepo in the 17th minute, it seemed to catch the mood at this point.
Newcastle could have led early when Miguel Almirón cleared the right and lined the path of Joe Willock, who had sprinted inside left. Willock’s finish was wild, high above the crossbar, but it was a concern from Southampton’s perspective how Almirón was able to eat up so much open space.
Carlos Alcaraz, on his full debut, had some good moments on the ball in midfield as he was Southampton’s most likely goalscorer before the break. He nearly got a pass from James Ward-Prowse – Fabian Schär ousted him – as he hit a low cracker from long range who swerved and nearly caught Pope.
Newcastle were balanced and threatening with Bruno Guimarães in possession; Almirón and Willock enter dangerous areas on the sides. Willock struck high again after a Kieran Trippier cross before controversy erupted in the 39th minute.
It was Willock on the left, cutting inside and forcing Gavin Bazunu to parry and from there he always felt Newcastle would put the ball in the net. Callum Wilson was thwarted by Mohammed Salisu and when the ball popped at Joelinton he struck home. And yet the referee, Stuart Attwell, immediately whistled – for the handball against Joelinton. It was tough in the moment and hard to beat on replays.
There were some tasty challenges, with Caleta-Car coming into the book for a delay on Almirón, who had touched the ball in front of him and was out, while Pope was lucky to escape censure for clearing Djenepo at the end of the first half. . A dazed Djenepo was expelled.
It was all about transitions, with Newcastle hitting particularly hard through Almirón; Southampton couldn’t handle their pace and directness. Three times he cleared early in the second half to cross and three times Southampton were pardoned, most obviously when Joelinton suffered his moment of horror from close range.
Back came Southampton, with substitute Adam Armstrong and Ward-Prowse having half chances. It was another substitute, Ché Adams, who was to score. Sent without fail by the excellent Alcaraz, he could not beat Pope. As was the case a few moments later when he spun inside the zone. Pope was too lively.
. Joelinton give win Newcastle semi-final first leg Southampton Cup Carabao